19 March 2009

To crash a Predator

The NYTimes has a report on Predator drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles as the "weapons of choice" in fighting Al Qaeda. Here are some interesting excerpts:
Air Force officials acknowledge that more than a third of their unmanned Predator spy planes — which are 27 feet long, powered by a high-performance snowmobile engine, and cost $4.5 million apiece — have crashed, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pilots, who fly them from trailers halfway around the world using joysticks and computer screens, say some of the controls are clunky. For example, the missile-firing button sits dangerously close to the switch that shuts off the plane’s engines. Pilots are also in such short supply that the service recently put out a call for retirees to help...

And even though 13 of the 70 Predator crashes have occurred over the last 18 months, officials said the accident rate has fallen as flying hours have shot up...

Still, he said, “these systems today are very much Model T Fords. These things will only get more advanced.”
(photo credit)

1 comment:

  1. Twenty-seven feet long, powered by snow moblie engines. $4.5 MILLION?


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